[From King Orry to Queen Victoria, 1899]
DURING the Civil War in England between Charles I. and the Parliament, the Isle of Man and the Manx people remained steadily attached to the interest of the King, and was one of the very last places that yielded to the arms of Cromwell.
Sir Walter Scott, in his beautiful tale of Peveril of the Peak, very graphically tells many of the incidents in the history of the island at this period. General Ireton offered the Earl of Derby not only his life, but the restitution of all his English estates, if he would surrender the Isle of Man to the Parliamentary forces. The Earl returned the following spirited and indignant reply:
July 12, 1649.
I received your Letter with indignation and scorn, and return you this answer, that I cannot but wonder whence you should gather any hopes from me that I should, like you, prove treacherous to my Sovereign, since you cannot but be sensible of my former actings in his late Majestys service; from which principles of Loyalty I am in no whit departed. I scorn your proffers, disdain your favour and abhor your treason, and am so far from delivering up this Island to your advantage, that I will keep it to the utmost of my power and your destruction. Take this for your final answer and forbear any further solicitations; for if you trouble me with any more messages on this occasion, I will burn the paper and hang the bearer. This is the immutable resolution and shall be the undoubted practice of him who accounts it his chiefest glory to be,
His Majestys most Loyal and obedient Servant,
To COMMISSARY-GENERAL IRETON.
This letter, which was in after years pronounced by Sir Robert Walpole to be a model of brave and natural eloquence, shows at once the character of this truly great man, who throughout his life was stanch and true alike to his country, his King, and his God. No nobler type of an Englishman is to be found in the history of our country than James, seventh Earl of Derby; and it is perhaps not too much to say that from his time to the present his descendants have, without exception, maintained the same character as their noble ancestor.
After the sacking of Lathom House, which the brave Countess Charlotte, Earl James indomitable wife, long defended against two thousand of the Parliamentary troops under General Ireton, and the defeat of the Royalists at Bolton, the Earl left England for his island kingdom, where he busied himself in protecting his interests till 1651 A.D., when he proceeded again to England, taking with him a regiment he had raised in the Isle of Man. When he landed he raised once more the Royal Standard, and with what forces he could assemble, joined the Royal army, with which he shared the toils and trials of the campaign that terminated in the ill-fated battle of Worcester, after which, by seeing first to the safety of his King Charles, and placing him in the hands of the Penderels at Boscobel, he entirely sacrificed himself, and was taken prisoner.
Such a leader as James, Earl of Derby, was not to be parted with alive by the Roundheads. Next to Prince Rupert, he was the greatest thorn in their sides. He underwent what was called a trial, and was beheaded on October 16, 1651 A.D., at Bolton-le-Moors.
The death of Lord Derby did not give the Isle of Man to the Roundheads without a hard struggle.
The renowned Lady Charlotte, Countess of Derby, was a woman worthy of such a spouse, and Sir Walter Scott tells us in his Peveril of the Peak of the trials and exertions of this heroic lady.
Immediately on hearing of the defeat of the Royalists at Worcester, she put her little dominions into a state of defence; but a traitor was in her campa serpent in her bosom. The man whom her husband had trusted and made Receiver - General betrayed his trust. Captain William Christian, better known as Illiam Dhôan, or Brown William, who held command of her chief body of troops and the garrison of Castle Rushen, surrendered the keys of the Castle, without resistance, directly the Parliamentary fleet hove in sight of Castletown Bay.
The noble Countess of Derby was treacherously taken prisoner, and confined in Castle Rushen till the restoration of the English monarchy, when she was at once liberated, and the Derby family were reinstated in all their rights and estates, both in England and the Isle of Man.
Her room where she was imprisoned, and which had hitherto been the Council Chamber, is pointed out to visitors at the present day, and is now used as a day ward for prisoners for debt.
William Christian was born in 1608 A.D., and was the third son of Deemster Ewan Christian.
James, the seventh Earl of Derby and ninth Lord of Man, was desirous of altering the land tenure of the island, which was held by what was termed the tenure of the straw a modification of that granted by King Godred Crovan in 1066 A.D., which was nominally a tenancy at will, under the Kings or Lords of Mona, but was by custom practically equivalent to a freehold. This tenure of the straw Lord Derby wished to change for a system of lease for three lives, which was opposed by many of the landowners, and much ill-feeling arose on both sides. Whether this was altogether a wise proceeding on the Earls part is an open question.
Ewan Christian, the father of William, purchased the estate of Ronaldsway, near Castletown, and afterwards discovered there was some slight difficulty about the title.
In order to arrange matters amicably, Ewan Christian agreed to make over his title to the property to his third son WilliamIlliam Dhôan, or Brown William, so called on account of his fair brown hairand by so doing, and meeting the views and wishes of the Lord, he gained his friendship.
Lord Derby appointed young William Christian to the post of Receiver-General, one of the most important and lucrative positions in the island.
Three years after, Lord Derby, having raised and trained his regiment of Manxmenvolunteersto fight for the young King Charles II.s cause, crossed over to England with them, and joined the Royal army which was so badly beaten and dispersed at the unfortunate Battle of Worcester, where the Manxmen, who had stood their ground with their usual pluck and pertinacity, were woefully cut up by Cromwells Ironsides, and their leader, the Earl of
Derby, was afterwards taken prisoner. The majority of those of the Manxmen who did not fall in the fight were dispersed about the country, and this accounts for meeting with Manx names in several parts of EngIandOxfordshire, Bucks, and Kent in particular. But very few ever returned to their homes.
Previous to leaving the island with his unfortunate regiment, he confided to William Christians special care his wife, the Countess, and their children; and also placed him in command of what troops and strongholds he possessed, to protect the island in fact, constituted him his alter ego during his absence.
There is no doubt but that Christian, from his very first appointment, greatly abused the powers his position gave him in more ways than one. He took advantage of the troublous and unsettled state of the times to apply to his own uses and to put away considerable sums of money that he, as Receiver-General of the island, had the handling of. Twenty thousand poundsa very large sum in those dayswas the amount he was afterwards arrested and imprisoned for in the Fleet Prison at London, whither he had fled from the Isle of Man after having betrayed every trust, without a single exception, that had been placed in him by the Earl of Derby prior to his departure to England to assist the cause of the King.
That Christian first stirred up a mutinous rising among the lower classes of ignorant Manx people against the Countess of Derby, and entered into a treasonable correspondence with the officers of the Parliamentary forces both naval and military there are most convincing proofs.
On hearing that her husband was taken prisoner at Worcester, Lady Derby consulted Sir Philip Musgrave, whom she had appointed Governor, having her doubts as to Christians fidelity, and drew up proposals for a conditional submission to Cromwells Government. These were sent by a special messenger to England. The very night after the despatch of the messenger, Christian headed an insurrection, and seized all the forts except Peel Castle and Castle Rushen at Castletown.
According to Burtons account, the Manx insurgents not only plundered the Earls property and estates, but treated all the English who fell into their hands very harshly and cruelly. The uncorroborated statement of Burton, however, must be taken cum grano salis, and is open to strong suspicion.
Sir Philip Musgrave warned the Countess of Christians treachery while he was still with her in Castle Rushen. There have been insular writers who have endeavoured to defend William Christian, and regarded him as a martyr; but there can be no gainsaying the evidence of the Mercurius Politicus of November, 1651 A.D., which published the letter of Hugh Moore.
There are circumstances that would lead to the supposition that he was false to both parties Royalists and Parliamentariansfrom some of the evidence that was adduced at his trial. At the commencement of the troubles, and when first a suspicion arose as to his good faith, Christian volunteered to Governor Musgrave to take an oath of fidelity to the Countess of Derby; but afterwards, when asked why he had not done so, made the paltry excuse that Sir Philip did not use him kindly, and flatly refused. The fact was, he had already gone too far with the Cromwellians to do so, for on the very same day he sent out a boat to the Parliamentary forces lying anchored in Castletown Bay, with a letter to Colonel Dunkerfield, the commander, assuring him that no opposition would be offered to his landing, and urging him to send his troops on shore at once. He further informed him that he had already caused a white flag to be hoisted on the fort at Douglas, and that all the forts, except Peel Castle and Castle Rushen, had been secured; the only two exceptions being those of Castletown and Peel.
Those few who would regard William Christian as a martyr endeavour to dispute, if not deny, this, but utterly fail in their efforts to whitewash the traitor, for the Mercurius Politicus of November, 1651 A.D., published a letter from a person on board one of the ships of the fleet, stating that A man named Hugh Moore, a Manxman, employed by Mr. Receiver Christian, the Chief of the island, and others, had come on board with letters to assure us that we should have no opposition in landing, but might securely come under the forts, which, he said, he had already taken possession of for us.
A still further corroboration of his treachery is the fact that Cromwells Government was so well pleased and satisfied with Christian for what he had done, that the Journals of the House of Commons for December, 1651 A.D., contain a resolution confirming the proposal of the Council of State, That the Receiver-General and his brother, two of the ablest and honest est gentlemen on the island, should be called before the Council to give information respecting the laws of the Isle of Man.
This brother of William Christian was Ewan Christian, one of the two Deemsters of the island.
The troops landed immediately after the reception of Christians letter; surrounded Castle Rushen on October 27, 1651 A.D.; and on the same day Christian went to the castle, where in an interview with the Countess of Derby, he handed her a letter from Colonel Dunkerfield, demanding her surrender.
This letter, in speaking of her husband, contained the words, the late Earl of Derby. This abrupt announcement was the first intimation the Countess had received of the execution of her husband. Christian must, of course, have known of this long before, but had never had the decency to even hint her sad bereavement to the lady his benefactor, her husband, had confided to his care.
Finding that even the few troops in the castle had been won or bought over by Christian, both Rushen and Peel Castles were surrendered on November 3; the widowed Countess was taken prisoner, and for some time was treated with great indignity by her captors.
That any reasonable and just person can attempt to justify or even excuse William Christian for his base treachery and treason, and endeavour to make a hero and martyr of the man, is inconceivable; or to deny that the fate that ultimately befell him was anything but what he richly deserved.
Illiam Dhôan was a man that no Manxman has cause to be proud of.
The Edward Christian introduced by Sir Walter Scott into his charming novel of Peveril of the Peak is a fictitious character altogether.
On the first success of Christian in betraying the Countess of Derby, and yielding up his native country to the Roundheads, Lord Fairfax, the officer appointed by Cromwell as Governor or Lord of the island, continued him in his appointment of Receiver-General, which was doubtless a part of the bargain he made with Colonel Dunkerfield at the time he delivered up the island to him and his troops. He continued in the office till 1658 A.D., in which year Fairfax, being desirous of returning to England, appointed a personal connection of his own, an old member of the Long Parliament, and one of the Regicides, a man named James Challoner, as Governor on his behalf.
Governor Challoner was not long in his new position before he had his suspicions aroused that Mr. Receiver-General William Christian was not working fairly and squarely. It is quite possible that Fairfax may have had doubts of his own on the subject, and selected Challoner to be the Governor on the principle of Set a thief to catch a thief, and did not care about personally taking any part in the unshipping the man himself a man who had really rendered such efficient service to the Roundhead cause. However that may be, Challoner very soon discovered Christians defalcations under his Receivership, and further that he had misappropriated also the revenues of the Bishopric.
So soon as he discovered this and obtained sufficient evidence of Christians guilt, the Governor ordered his arrest; but with the connivance and assistance of his brother Ewan, the Deemster, the traitor fled, succeeded in making his escape, and disappeared from the Isle of Man till 1660 A.D.
He afterwards turned up in London, but by that time much had happened; matters had altogether changed. The great man Oliver Cromwell was dead, and Charles II., that beauty of a monarch, had been proclaimed King. Shortly after Christians arrival in the great city, proceedings were commenced against him for his defalcations in his Receivership of the Isle of Man. He was arrested, and locked up in the Fleet Prison, where he spent about nine months, after the expiration of which time he suc ceeded in getting bail, and was released. With such a sum of money, as he had defrauded the Manx Exchequer of, at his command, it was not a very difficult matter for him to obtain bail. The laws and practices concerning the procuration of bail in those days were peculiar.
By that time Challoner was no longer Governor of the Isle of Man; indeed, he had been summoned somewhat peremptorily to England to answer to some of his own misdeeds, his very close connection with the regicides being not the least of them. He was so alarmed that, rather than go to London and face the music awaiting him at Westminster, he took something called physic, as it is quaintly described, and made away with himself.
William Christian, immediately after his release from prison, ventured back to the island, and rejoined his family. He did so under the erroneous impression that the Kings Act of Indemnity held him secure from all legal consequences of his acts, there and in England. These, however his acts of treason especially were not against the English Crown and King, but against the Lord of Man, the Earl of Derby, his immediate feudal sovereign, who, though beheaded by the Parliamentarians, had left a son and his widowed mother, neither of whom was at all likely to either forgive or forget such baseness as his.
No sooner did they know he was within their grasp, than on September 12, 1662 A.D., Charles eighth Lord Derby issued orders to both the civil and military officials of the island to proceed immediately against him, and in consequence Illiam Dhôan was arrested. No time was lost in collecting evidence against him both at Peel and Castletown.
After considerable legal quibbles and skirmishings in both the Manx and English courts, as to what were and what were not Lord Derbys rights as Lord of Man, and what were the powers of the House of Keysfor he had appealed to the Privy Council in London Christian was found guilty of treason, and condemned to be hanged, drawn and quartered: the usual sentence in those times.
The relatives of the condemned man were not without some power in the island, or devoid of means the £20,000 had not all gone in procuring bail and they prosecuted the appeal against both the accusation and the sentence. It was argued before the Privy Council with great pertinacity on both sides and dismissed. The judgment of the King in Council on William Christians appeal case was printed as an Act of Parliament long after his execution on August 14, 1663 A.D.
After the final judgment of the King in Council was received in the island, and laid in due course before the Tynwald Court, the wife of Christian made a personal appeal to the Countess of Derby one woman to another praying that the brutal sentence of hanging and the other horrible acces sories of quartering, etc., should not be enforced, and that the sentence be altered to shooting. Lady Derby could not resist such a prayer, and smothering all her feelings of resentment and injury, not to mention revenge, granted it.
On a bleak, cold morning, on January 2, 1663 A.D., Illiam Dhôan was marched from Castle Rushen that same castle he had so basely betrayed to Hango Hill, on the very estate that became the means of introduction of him to the Earl (James) of Derby, his benefactor, and there, overlooking the sea and Castletown Bay, he was shot. Not only was the prayer of Mrs. Christian granted by the Countess, but orders were issued that her husbands body should be handed over to her.
The result is thus recorded in the registry of Kirk Malew: Mr. William Christian, of Ronaldsway, Receiver-General, was shot to death at Hango Hill, on January 2, 1663 A.D., for surrendering the keys of the garrison to Oliver Cromwells army. He died most penitently and most courageously; prayed earnestly, made an excellent speech, and was next day buried in the chancel of Kirk Malew.
Brown William Christian was not only the traitor above described, but was a bitter and cruel persecutor, in conjunction with Governor James Challoner and the Bishop of the island at that period, of the few Manx families, chiefly in the parish of St. Maughold, who had joined the Society of Friends or Quakers.
For his participation in this persecution he expressed great sorrow in his last speech, and begged to be forgiven both by the Quakers themselves and God.
The three families of John Christian of Lewaige, William Callow of Ballaglass and Ballafaile, and Evan Kerruish, were imprisoned by him and through his instigations at different times in both Castle Rushen, in Castletown, and in Peel Castle.
The endless reproaches of most of the Manx people and the English Royalists have been justly heaped upon his memory, though some historians have maintained that resistance to the Roundhead forces would have been the extreme of rashness, and only caused unnecessary bloodshed on both sides. For his part in the Quaker persecutions no one has ever attempted to defend him.
The execution of Christian did not terminate the troubles about him. The petition to the King in Council against his sentence did not reach its destination till January 9a week after he was shot at Hango Hill. The Attorney-General of England, having reported in favour of hearing the prisoner in person, the King deemed it was an infringement against his sovereign rights to have executed him. No doubt Charles was urged on to assert his regal powers at the instigation and solicitation of some or other of his lady favourites, who no doubt were substantially influenced by two of Christians Sons, George and Ewan, who had what was yet remaining of their fathers £20,000 in hand.
The Kings counsel called upon Lord Derby to produce the prisoner Christian, but he boldly de fended his conduct on the ground that the Act of Indemnity of the British Parliament did not apply to, and had no force in, the Isle of Man, which pos sessed an independent parliament and constitution of its own, in the House of Keys. In this he was successful. His position was unassailable, but the King in Council overruled the confiscation of Christians property, and ordered the two Deemsters of the island to be detained in custody, and condemned them to pay 1,000 marks=£600 13s. 4d., as damages to George Christian. Long before this time Ewan Christian, the Deemster, had died, September 20, 1655 A.D., and was buried at Kirk Malew.
The estate of Ronaldsway was restored to George Christian, but in 1706 A.D. his son William was dispossessed of it by a decree of the Earl of Derby, and again ten years after an Order in Council reinstated him; but so much law, as is too frequently the case, ate up all the property of the Christian family, and to satisfy the demands for coststhat terrible demon Coststhe estate was sold in 1720 A.D.
At this period two Englishmen had married Frenchwomen, and perhaps there never was a greater contrast than between these two ladies.
The unfortunate King Charles I. had for his Queen Henrietta Maria, a woman who, unwittingly no doubt, was the cause of augmenting much of his ill fortune. Frivolous, weak, and never to be trusted, she was essentially an intrigante, possessed all the worst traits of her countrywomen, and was her husbands ill adviser. Had better counsels been urged upon the King when first the troubles began, he would never have lost his head. Her influence over the King was ever on the wrong side. His adversaries came to have no confidence in his promises or his word.
To the last, Cromwell and the Parliamentary leaders would have come to terms with Charles, but the unfortunate letter of his Queen that was found in the saddle-flaps of her messenger in the Old Bell Inn of Holborn, and which fell into the hands of Cromwell and Iretona letter that told him she was raising troops in France to cross the Channel and destroy his enemiesdestroyed all further confidence. It urged him to carry on a procrastinating negotiation with the Parliament leaders, to tell and promise them anythingin fact, to humbug themtill she could sendnot bringhim foreign soldiers to his aid. This letter from the Queen herself convinced both Cromwell and Ireton that hereafter not the slightest trust was to be placed in the King, his promises, or his wife.
Henrietta herself had long since fled, and placed herself in safety across the sea when real trouble beset her husband. Her talked-of schemes of obtaining armed assistance were delusions chateaux dEspagneutter failures. They only exasperated her husbands foes at the bare thought of his encouraging a foreign foeand Frenchmen above all othersto invade their countrys shores. Cardinal Richelieu, who then held the reins of power in France, was far too astute a man to allow a single regiment of French soldiers to embark on such an errand. He was one of the first men out of England who correctly gauged the character of Cromwell, and had no wish to make such a man an enemy of France.
The other Frenchwoman, an entirely different character, was Charlotte de la Tremouile, Countess of Derby. In the hour of need and peril she was at her husbands side, or acting where she could best assist him, either at Lathom House or the Isle of Man. Although conquered in the one case by the overwhelming forces of General Ireton; and in the other basely betrayed by William Christian, she was to the last unconquered in spirit, and lived to see her murdered husband revenged, and his son reinstated in all his rights and possessions.
What a lesson in heredity do we have on tracing the history of the respective descendants of these two French ladies! Of the two sons of Henrietta Maria, neither one nor the other was either a good man or a wise, not even a respectable King. Of Charles II. the least that is said the better. James II., though an unwise King, and a bigot in the hands of priestly maladvisers, was, at any rate, an honest man, and openly acknowledged his attachment to the Romish Church. Neither one nor the other was any ornament to the British thronefar otherwise. To James's daughters, better fates befell. Mary married a wise husband, who laid the foundation for the glorious reign of her sister Anne. The race has now died out, and no more descendants of Henrietta Maria are ever likely to trouble England again.
Had Charles I. had a wife like Charlotte de la Tremouile, who can say how events might have gone ? His worst enemies must ever admit he was a Christian and a gentleman, and deserved a better fate. His execution was a grave mistake.
How otherwise has it been with the descendants of the Countess of Derby! They have all of them been a credit to their country, and such as have been statesmen, that have directed the destinies of England, have done so with equal honour to themselves and the British Empire.